KEEN long-haul travellers who have started the year with cash in their pockets will be almost spoilt for choice in the coming weeks as leading airlines open the year with swingeing fare discounts for those prepared to book several months before they travel.
In many cases, fares were slashed ahead of the Christmas break to apply on bookings by mid-January. The new year brought rival airlines into the sale, although the choice of deals shrinks drastically after January 31.
Malaysia Airlines, for instance, offers returns to Malaysia from £519, South East Asia (£529), Australia (£729) and Auckland, New Zealand, (£789) for travel between March 14 and June 20, if booked this month.
It operates a codeshare with bmi which delivers passengers into London from various regional centres to connect with some long-haul flights.
Manchester departures include Cairo (from £339) and Beirut (also £379).
The airline also confirms its new service into Tripoli, starting February 21, from £256 return.
Cathay Pacific’s winter sale, running until February 17, includes Hong Kong returns (from £549), Australia (£749) and Asia and China (from £599) for travel until June 31 and, so far as Hong Kong is concerned, until December 31, 2011.
With Qatar Airways, potential options include African adventures, cultural tours of India, beach stays in the Indian Ocean, and Middle East shopping splurges.
Ex-London, Qatar returns include Delhi (£451), Melbourne (£750), Seychelles (£569) and Singapore (£533); Manchester options include Mumbai (£401), Hong Kong (£476) and Ho Chi Minh City (£620).
In most cases, cheapest Qatar fares are for travel by June 25, though Melbourne tickets apply to April 24-June 25 only.
For USA, the American Airlines’ “Great American Sale” applies to travel well into 2011.
Within a selection of 14 destinations from four UK airports, Glasgow and Edinburgh are added for the first time this year: New York returns from £314 are alongside LA (£393); Phoenix (£433), Las Vegas (£525) and Miami £369).
Returns to Chicago ex-Manchester, for travel until April 7, start at £349.
British Airways marks the Chinese New Year with Hong Kong returns from £541; Shanghai from £538 is slashed by up to £124, with Barbados from £443 (up to £171 off).
The BA sale will also appeal to those who fancy the occasional luxury of upper class flights.
Its first-class returns from London into Boston from £2,857 represent a saving of up to £2,637, while Miami, from £3,267, could save up to £3,228.
For springtime short breaks in Scandinavia, catch the SAS Seat Sale running until January 17 for travel until September 30. Among a range of regional departures, single fares start at £62 for Copenhagen (ex-Heathrow and Manchester), with Bergen (ex-Gatwick) from £49 single. Helsinki starts at £62 ex-London and £99 ex-Edinburgh, by a new service starting April 29.
Austravel brand manager Ben Briggs says: “January and February are always the biggest months for both enquiries and bookings to Australasia, even more so than other long-haul destinations.
“As we follow consumer trends closely, we know January is the best time to offer great deals for the year ahead. Most airlines release their best fares at this time of the year, so it’s a great time to bag best fares and availability for travel up to and including Christmas 2011.”